Charleston, South Carolina,
was the site of many
historic and Masonic events.
Shepheard's Tavern in Charleston, South Carolina, was the birthplace of
Scottish Rite Freemasonry. Of all the public houses in early
Charleston, Shepheard’s Tavern has the richest and most significant
Charles Shepheard built his tavern around
1720. During the 18th century in Charleston, the term tavern
was used to describe any establishment that served a number of purposes
for the town. The building site Charles Shepheard chose for his
business was a lot at the corner of Broad and Church Streets located near
the center of Charles-Town, as it was then called. It was a
four-story oblong building (pictured at left), and its purpose, while
commercial, was also to serve the community in a variety of ways.
Not only was Shepheard's a place to eat and drink
but also a place to do business, hold public meetings, and write or
receive mail. As one of the principal public houses of Charleston,
it played an important part in the development of the city. It
shared this honor with the Exchange Coffee House at Alexander Chisolm's on
the Bay and Marshal's on the Bay "where gentlemen will have the
Entertainment and Attendance usual in Coffee Houses abroad."
In 1734, a notice appeared in the South
Carolina Gazette, a weekly journal printed in
"Charles-Town." It announced tickets would go on sale for
a play "The Orphan or the Unhappy Marriage" which was to be held
at Shepheard’s Tavern at the intersection of Broad and Church Street on
October 17th. This was the first season plays of any type to be
presented in Charleston.
Also, in the October 28, 1736, Gazette,
the following paragraph appeared: "Last night a lodge of Ancient and
Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, was held, for the first
time, at Mr. Charles Shepheard's, Broad Street, when John Hammerton, Esq.
Secretary and Receiver General for this province, was unanimously chosen
Master, who was pleased to appoint Mr. Thomas Denne, Senior Warden, Mr.
Tho. Harbin, Junior Warden, and Mr. James Gorden, Secretary."
Shepheard's Tavern burned down during a fire in
1740. After the ashes had cooled, it was rebuilt in the same spot
using as many materials as could be saved from the original
building. The following is a list of various information on the
history of Shepheard's Tavern.
|Theatrical performances at Shepheard's were held in a large public
room called the "Court Room," so called because the
province rented the large room for that purpose.|
|Welcoming ceremonies for newly arrived British governors were held
at Shepheard's, Dillon's, and Poinsettia's.|
|The Grand Lodge of Freemasons, formed in 1754, met at Shepheard's.|
|The "Sons of Liberty" held their meetings at
According to Charles Fraser's Reminiscences of Charleston,
Shepheard's was known popularly as the "Corner Tavern."
|Charleston's First Troop of Horse was organized and the Court of
Sessions was held at Shepheard's.|
|Charleston's gentlemen came there to read, do business, hold
public meeting, write and send letters.|
|An advertisement found in the South Carolina Gazette of
November 19, 1744, notes: "The Subscriber has opened his House
in Broad Street, where may be depended on, as Good Entertainment as
this Province affords, and the Customers as obliging usage, Thy most
obedient humble Servant, Charles Shepheard."|
|An advertisement found in the South Carolina Gazette of May
16, 1743, notes: "The Hon. William Ball, Esq., announces
Charles Shepheard as Post Master for the province of South
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On May 31, 1801, Colonel John Mitchell and the
Reverend Fredrick Dalcho opened "The Supreme Council of the 33rd
Degree for the United States of America. " Dalcho had received
the 33° from Colonel John Mitchell six days before the opening.
John Mitchell was a native of Ireland and an officer of the American Army
in the Revolutionary War. Frederick Dalcho, a native of England, was
elected Grand Commander of the Council in 1816 and served as Assistant
Rector of St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Charleston.
It is a bit strange that the first meeting took
place on May 31, 1801, as this was a Sunday and not a day during the week
when most Lodges would meet. When we trace the date of May 31 in
history, we find it was the date of the ascension to the throne in 1740 of
Fredrick the Great of Prussia (1712–1786). The day was celebrated
each year by his subjects.
Dr. Dalcho, one of the founders, was the son of
an officer in that monarch's army and must have been familiar from
childhood with the observance of that anniversary. What was more
natural than that he should suggest the date to his colleagues (if they
did not already know of it) as a fitting occasion upon which to inaugurate
the new Supreme Council? Since Frederick the Great was a Master
Mason and a monarch famous throughout the world, what was more natural
than that Dalcho's colleagues should agree? Some strong reason must
have induced the inauguration of the Supreme Council on Sunday, and that
reason, this author speculates, was the desire to render tribute to a
famous man and Freemason.